Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Skype rewind on the nexus 7

So we all hate the new Skype with its fixed landscape mode. You want the old version back? Try installing from the Amazon Appstore. But be warned, if Google Play has auto update set, it will re-upgrade you to the latest version.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Furby Care and Resurrection

I recently went shopping with my wife and while in John Lewis we ended up in their toy department. To my surprise Furbies are back and have new features, and having checked out the web (slayer furbies) I went up into the loft to retrieve the original 1998 Furbies that I knew were still up there.
The Furbies had survived, mostly I think because they had developed faults which I hadn't fixed for their original owners (my 2 daughters).
Getting the Furbies going required a bit of sandpaper to refresh the battery terminals for one, and a jumper wire soldering on the other to bridge the broken battery compartment terminal.

Furby Care and resurrection:

  1. They don't wake up by themselves, you have to tip them upside down.
  2. They don't "learn" anything, it's all pre-programmed 
  3. They randomly generate their name and personality upon reset, the reset procedure is to turn them upside down, depress the tongue and hold it depressed and then press the reset stud in the base with a pen. 
  4. If they "jam" you can un-jam them using the reset stud on the bottom, this causes the single internal motor to run through a complete motion cycle backwards and forwards.
  5. Initial power up - this stumped me, they'd been in the loft for 10 years with no power, the first set of rechargeables I dumped in simple drained immediately without sparking any life, I was testing the Furbies with a test meter which is how I noticed the drop in voltage on the cells. The second set caused a little spark of life, but the Furby wasn't completely responsive until the third freshly charged set went in (they've survived now for 5 days on that set though). I think they must have some capacitative component that maintains a fairly large charge and drains the batteries realy quickly when depleted. In '98 we were fairly strapped for cash, I can't imagine a constant supply of duracel batteries would have been popular on our weekly shopping bill. 
  6. Their memory survived ten years! They woke up speaking English and wanting to play a game and be fed, which is presumably where they were up to in their "learning" when they were retired from animation. I reset one of them to test this, still can't work out there names though. 
  7. Tickle technique: I skinned one of the Furbies (there are guides on-line to tell you how to do this, use your favourite search engine :D ) because I thought the tickle sensor on the stomach of one of them wasn't working, however I discovered it's a rocker, the switch rotates around a vertical pivot; the easiest tickle technique for me is to hold the furby upright in cupped both hands, and use your thumbs alternately to rock the switch; you can also reach the back sensor with your fingers to "pet" the device using its' back sensor.
  8. Clapping slowly can get them to dance (they don't dance as good as the new ones though), they don't seem to respond to music with a fast beat.

That's as far as I've got with them. There are Furbish dictionaries, so you can decode what they're trying to say, putting two together and stimulating them accelerates the "stupid" one to the same level as the "clever one". I've seen them play hide and seek together with no interaction from me, both spooky and interesting.
I had thought I would use them to make an computer controlled animatronic Furby, but I think my girls might want their Furbies back now that they're working and we can afford the batteries :D
I have the makings of an IR sender in the loft from another project, the IR codes that the Furbies use to talk to one another are well documented now, to I may try to make them sneeze via IR for my next post on this topic.
That's all for now!

Haipad revisited.

Slatedroid: namko seems to have a working 3.0 kernel. So the Haipad is on charge, prior to upgrade. :) If OTG is working I will buy some USB temperature probes and see what we can do with them and perhaps even waterproofing the tablet for installation in the green house. Although there are so many cheap android on a stick devices now it's insane, it might be easier to just spend £30 on one of those (many have released kernels on slatedroid).

Friday, November 16, 2012

Amazon reviews and tablet Styli (Stylus, Styluses?)

I wrote a review for a (very cheap I must say) stylus. You can see the review here. The stylus is nothing special and after a few hours use I began to get really hacked off with how much it dragged. So? So I took it apart, (the silver ring comes off and that lets the "rubber" nib free. I tried stuffing paper in the nib to make it firmer (fail, tablet stops recognizing the touches). I tried bluetack in the nib (ditto). I gave up and went back to my finger. Then I had a brain wave while falling asleep, maybe cling film has a slippy enough surface. I mean cling film only sticks to itself right? Turns out this was a genius idea. Nib is firmer. Cling film is slippy enough to give positive pressure from writing on the tablet surface. I may mod this more by scotch tape on stylus so I don't rub the cling film off and to provide a better grip on the Barrel of the stylus.
I'm very happy with the result, I hope it lasts!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

My focus changed a bit, having come into some money, I invested in a Google Nexus 7. I haven't rooted it yet, but I wanted to list a few things I found a bit problematic about it. Being a bit of a BBC radio 4 listener, I was sad to discover that I couldn't play radio via iPlayer, this is cured by installing the BBC media player app. However this has one CONSIDERABLE draw back, it won't play in the background. I've tried other apps for listening to radio, I have a number of older Android devices and I thought I'd tried them all, but I was wrong. TuneIn! Plays Radio 4, has no ads, plays in the background, works on my X10 mini pro, works on my Tablet. Joy! What of my original tablet? Well I need a temperature controller for my wife's green house and my son is always wanting to nab my hardware so we will see ...